Alex Moffett Interview

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  • Jon Andresen
    Jon: Today is May 2nd. I'm at the apartment of Alex Moffett, just beginning my interview. Why don't you being by telling me where and when you were born.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Well, I was born in Sujo China in nineteen five, o-five. My parents were missionaries in China and a my mother taught me in the first few grades. We had a big family, and then I finished high school in Shanghai in the Shanghai American school in 1923.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: That's interesting, were your parents affiliated with any church?Alex: Yes, they were with the Presbyterian church.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, I suppose you speak Chinese.Alex: Well, I spoke the Shanghai dialect. I never did get proficient in what they call the putongwa now, the Peking dialect. And I've forgotten a lot of what I knew.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, did you go back to the States?Alex: I came to Washington Lee to college in Virginia. And then went to Vanderbilt for medical school. And hospital training stayed on in Nashville and a couple of more years in a small town near Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then after my wife, Virginia, and I were married we went back out to China in 1935. And were in the medical work in our mission for five years, the first time. (laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, you were there until 1940?Alex: Yes, and then we were there during the Japanese invasion then and came out in 40'. And then we wanted to get on back but it was 47' before we got back. Then we were there for just over a year when we had to leave on account of the revolution and the new government. (laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Wow. That must have been quite a time there.Alex: Uhmhum.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Tell me about high school. What was it like to go to high school in Shanghai?Alex: Ya, it was an American school. Most of the students were American, had a few from other nationalities and it was organized primarily by missionaries because they wanted to have their children prepared to go to college you know.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And course a lot of em' studied at home like I did to begin with. So, we had a good good, a good school a very high standard because they had to prepare the students for any college in the United States. Course they scattered all over the United States you know.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Right.Alex: And ah, it was a great experience.Jon: What did your parents do exactly, as missionaries?Alex: My father was a minister, and he worked with the small country churches, small town churches.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So, he was somewhat analogous to the old Presbyterian, old Methodist circuit riders we hear about it over here. And ah he worked with his Chinese ministers, and once a month they'd come up to our home and he would have a day or two of a intensive Bible study. And then over the weekends he usually tried to get around to one or two places there. So, he had a very fine career. He enjoyed it a lot.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: That's wonderful. Did your parents stay there their whole lives?Alex: Yes, course it was broken off, broken up uhm by the Japanese war and later our W.W.II. But they stayed there until retirement age, and then my father supplied in a number of different churches in this country until he was close to seventy.(laugh).
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, were your parents sponsored by a church here in the states?Alex: Yes, by the, well by the, at that time we had the Presbyterian church was in two parts as you might have heard. As the northern and the southern, split up during the Civil War.(laugh)
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: And ah, so, we were under the southern church, the mission board of the southern church.Jon: And then you came back here to go to college.Alex: UhumJon: What was college like back in 1924?
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Well, it was quite an experience. I'd looked forward to it for so much.(laugh) Cause I'd been away, we had one furlough during during my earlier years but I'd been away for from the first grade until finished high school.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So it was tremendous anticipation.(laugh) And ah it took a little time to get used to things but I really loved it.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, you really didn't really know much about the United States, or what it is really like to live here?Alex: Not, well there was a lot that I didn't know.(laugh) Ya.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, what struck you the most about coming to the States?Alex: [tape cuts out] You remember hearing about the Volstead Act and Prohibition in the United States?Jon: Right.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: (laugh) Course we had Prohibition at that time, and ah I was used to seeing American sailors drunk in Shanghai, but I just thought that was people in the service you know.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And when I came over to college and ah the first few nights everybody was celebrating a good bit and quite a few of the boys were had been drinking too much, and ah it was quite a shock. (laugh) But I soon found out that that wasn't the whole the whole of student life.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, ah I just wrote a paper on Prohibition.Alex: Oh did you?Jon: Ya, was it easy to get alcohol during Prohibition?Alex: Yes.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: It was everywhere?Alex: Yes, uhm there were bootleggers almost everywhere. I went to a member, a minister in our church, told us about one visit when he went down to the county jail which is down the street, down the main street from our church in Lexington, Virginia.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah he said he noticed that when the time was came for singing there was one of the men that wasn't singing, so he says " Brother why don't you join the singing?". Well, he says, " I can't sing", he said ah " I just sold some liqueur to some of the officers in your church down the street and it just doesn't seem right to me now for you to be down here giving a service expecting me to sing."(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: That's really funny. Spent, you spent four years in college?Alex: Uh-hum.Jon: Did you study biology?Alex: No, well yes, but I started out I wanted I wanted to go into the ministry myself.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah so I majored in English, but finally I decided in my junior year to to go be, to go into medicine. So I had to take some extra science courses. At that time the pre-med .. courses were very heavy in science.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Now they've I'm glad to say have gone into including more of the humanities which I think is a excellent thing. Um, so when I graduated in uhm I was, at that time you, we didn't think about applying to fifteen or so medical schools like you do now. You just decided where you wanted to go and you went there.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: That would be nice.Alex: Most people could, I spose most people could get in. And ah I narrowed it down I wanted stay in the south, to Tulane and Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia. And ah, learned that at Tulane at that time that they had a strange custom of flunking about half or more of the freshman class.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: They flunked 'um?Alex: Ya, take in a big class and only keep about I think forty percent. Which I thought was rather stupid, hard on those who started out and then got kicked out.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then I had a friend who knew the lady who ran the one of the cafeterias on Vanderbilt campus and so he said he'd get me a job washing dishes for my meals.(laugh) So that decided me on Vanderbilt in Nashville.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So I went there and ah after being interviewed to see if I could get in I didn't have enough science so I had to take an extra year. I took that in the academic school, and I took some more chemistry there. And then went in next year and graduated in '32.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Was medical school expensive back then?Alex: Not like it is now. Uhm, I had a a, our mission board gave more or less subsistence salaries to the missionaries, enough, plenty to live on but there wasn't any extra.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: But they had stipends for each of the children, so all through school I got, in college I got $29.17 a month. And it was later increased to just over thirty, I forget what. So, I had that which went a long way. And then I always was able to get jobs for my room and my board.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And the rest of it I borrowed a little bit but not much, I came out with a small debt and I got several scholarships that helped along the way. So I don't remember any great agony over it.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: You say you worked for your room and board?Alex: Ya.Jon: Did you stay on campus, or did you have an apartment during med. school?Alex: Well, the first year I lived in a little apartment, we cleaned the apartment and them I worked over on the campus in the cafeteria for my meals.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah, let me see, that was for a couple of years. And one year my parents were on furlough so they all came and we lived together and I managed to eat off of them that year.(laugh) And the last year I had a student internship in a mental hospital...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: uh so I was, there were two senior students who were senior interns, medical student interns and that gave me a nice room and board there and a little extra.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: What did you do for fun in college and medical school?Alex: Well, in college I really, just loved swimming. I didn't miss many days that I didn't swim.(laugh) I was on the swimming team.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then also the last two years we had two clubs there, rowing clubs. We didn't have any intercollegiate rowing but we had two rowing clubs so I got on one of them and rowed there. And I enjoyed that a great deal too.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Did you row in the river?Alex: Yes, ah a river, it wasn't ah it wasn't very, it didn't have a very long stretch so we had four man , ah four oar shells instead of eight.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, you swam and you rowed?Alex: Rowed and my brother was there the last two years and ah he had a very good voice and so we had a couple guitars and we played a lot.(laugh) We had a lot of fun with that.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: And in medical school did you continue swimming?Alex: Ah medical school there wasn't much time. And enjoyed having dates and dances and so forth, but ah aside from that that was about it.(laugh) But I loved it, every day of it.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: And after medical school did you have an internship?Alex: Yes, I stayed on at Vanderbilt and took a, I wanted to go into surgery. But ah, I had an internship that where I thought I would get a fair amount of surgery.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: I decided not to go in for the long university training. I should have done it, but I decided not to because I knew if I went to China I'd have to do a little bit of everything. So I thought if l could get as broad a, get into as many fields as I could that it might be more useful.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So the first year I was in this place that had a rotating internship we called it, but the professor of medicine stopped me in the hall and asked me if I would be one of his interns on medicine. (laugh) I couldn't turn that down, ah he was a great hero of mine.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So, the first year I had just strictly internal medicine so I was very glad of that. And then the next two years I got a scholarship, I got a residency in a community hospital. Ah, there was only one resident physician, so you had to serve all of them and there were three surgeons and two of them I worked with mostly.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah they were just as different as they could be and I learned so many different things. One of them was very aggressive and ah not afraid to tackle anything. So, I got some, I hope I learned a little aggression from him. The other one was so cautious.(laugh) That he was very slow and deliberate about everything . And between the two I think it helped me a great deal in my career.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: How many years did you spend in your internship?Alex: Well, just three years and most of the now if you're going into surgery you usually spend five.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: But during the interval after our first furlough, when we came back I worked in a hospital where under surgeon who helped me to uhm ah apply to the American College of Surgeons and do a little extra work getting ready for that, and so I was admitted to the American College of Surgeons. Now you can't get in without the full at least five years training before hand, but at that time it was a little, not quite so strict.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, when you were in medical school you knew or thought you wanted to go back to China?Alex: Yes, I knew I wanted to go back.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: As a missionary or just a?Alex: No, as a missionary. Ya.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: They needed a lot of doctors there?Alex: Yes, yes they certainly did.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: When you went back to China, had you been back during college or medical school?Alex: No, just the one time when I was six years old I came back. I mean, no that was coming this way no I didn't get to go back.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: When you went back to first time, what struck you about going back?Alex: Well, it was, it was ah, it was very natural. In a way like getting home. Not that I didn't feel America was home but it just felt like another home. I'd wanted so badly to go, and I was lucky that Virginia was willing to go with me.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: When did you meet Virginia?Alex: Uhm in my, in my last year in med. school. No, I met her, I met her the year before that ya we didn't really start getting to know each other until the last year.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: How did you meet her?Alex: Well ah, there was a girl that I'd been having dates with, who just occasionally, and she had a bridge party at her home so she invited me to come and that's where I met Virginia.(laugh) Neither one of us played much bridge, and certainly weren't very good at it, and we've hardly played a game since(laugh) of bridge.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, you both went back to China?Alex: Yes, uh-ugh.Jon: How did you ah, go about practicing?Alex: Well, I went right into a mission hospital.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: The one in our in the town where I grew up. As a matter a fact we had an apartment in my parents home that first year. And ah the doctor who built that hospital was our family doctor, I'd grown up with him. And he was my role model for life I spose, a wonderful person.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah, it seemed to me like he could do almost anything(laugh) And ah, so I got to work with him for a short time, and then he became ill and died so. But I was ah, the hospital had about a hundred and twenty beds. And ah, the superintendent was at that time a Chinese, he was a Chinese doctor.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: A very fine man that I worked under, I really admired him, and then there was another surgeon that was just about my age who and we worked together a great deal there. But after a year of that, well the first six months was we started language, then after a little over a year the Japanese came in and ah so they burned up our homes and the hospital.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: They did?Alex: Burned all the hospital except the nurses home. And ah we ah we, Virginia we had two, we had one one child by then and another one was about ready to come so we were refugees in Shanghai for a while.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then I went back up in the country, ah the Japanese were occupying that area then and managed we got in there without too much trouble from the Japanese. We got to know some of them, and ah worked in a little, actually had a clinic in a country home.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: A Chinese country home where we had our clinic, and I had a room in a Buddhist temple right near by.(laugh) So when we had surgery we were right there in the Buddhist temple. We didn't do a great deal of surgery, it was mainly emergency work there. We did it right in the temple with the Buddhist gods in the background.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: How did you get supplies when after the Japanese came in?Alex: It was, it was pretty rough, pretty hard. Uhm usually I could get back and forth to Shanghai. Uhm you hard to go wherever, well the guerillas were fighting here and there you know so we sometimes the railroad was closed.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We didn't have a railroad to our home but we could get to a railroad and that sometime that was closed. But we lived on the Yangtze river so sometimes I could go by river. One way or another I'd go up about once a month to see the family and get a, get a couple of suitcases of supplies and bring 'um back.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: How did you, when you were a refugee in Shanghai how did you live?Alex: We lived in the American school.Jon: Oh.Alex: Ya, the the school opened, course most to the borders weren't able to get back again.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And it was a a campus, something like a little college campus and with a big building in front the dormitories and the refectory around the back. And we stayed there for awhile and then we got into an apartment. And later I took my family back up into the country and we were able to stay there for awhile together
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Why do you suppose, the Japanese were in Shanghai right?Alex: Yes.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Why do you think they didn't burn down the American school too?Alex: That was interesting. We were in the, that's before we were in the war with Japan. And ah so they were ah they were pretty careful about getting too rough with the Americans.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: I see.Alex: But while I was there, I don't suppose you remember hearing about the Panay incident? The US, the Untied States steamship P-A-N-A-Y, Panay. It was a tiny little gunboat, do you remember hearing about that ?
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: I think I have.Alex: Tiny little gunboat that ran up and down the- that we took from the Spanish in the Philippines in the Spanish-American war. (laugh)
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And they had regular patrol duty up and down the Yantze river. And ah that was a that was altogether a matter of American prestige because it was just a little a tiny little boat, and ah even the Chinese respected them most of the time. And ah it was anchored offshore at Nangjing, which is about hundred and fifty miles up the river, and ah with the American flag on it.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And one day they just bombed it and sank it, and that was one of the things that lead up to tightening things up, lead up to the war. Course the Pearl Harbor was the real incident, but that that really made things get a little bit tense.
  • Jon Andresen
    Jon: Before Pearl Harbor though um, weren't the Americans and the British supporting the guerillas fighting, the Chinese guerillas..?
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: The guerillas were so poorly organized, they were mainly just little groups of ah adventuresome young men (laugh), a good many roughnecks among them scattered around so we weren't supporting them. But we were supporting the Chang Kaichek's and his army, the nationalist army, ya.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: I was wondering because ah if the Japanese knew that why didn't they give the Americans trouble?Alex: They did up to the limits of what they thought they could. They made it hard for you. For instance, ah I had they made me come in to report to headquarters every now and then.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Um they'd talk endlessly and tell you what you ought to do and lecture you.(laugh) And ah uhm you had to have passes all the time, local passes and they gave you a lot of trouble getting a pass. You'd apply for it and you'd have to come back the next day to get it, well it wasn't ready yet, come back another day and another day. (laugh)
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: It ah was mainly just a matter of making it rough. One day I ah, after we came back to my town and took up a little nursing home and opened it as a little hospital, uhm had I think about twenty beds then.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We were able to do our surgery and so forth then, and I got called into the headquarters and told that we had to register with the Japanese government, the puppet government. Well, the Americans were taking a stand against doing anything like that. In other words we would try to get along with them but we wouldn't register with them.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So I told 'um we wouldn't do it. And ah so, they insisted and well I said we'll just close the hospital. (laugh) Actually it was the only hospital there in town. It was a city of about fifty-thousand. And after about three days I got word that, ok, they'd let us open it up again.(laugh) So, we were able to open.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: The Japanese knew you were you a doctor?Alex: Oh yes. In this, in the little town where I was at the country first there were was a- How big is a platoon?
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Forty men.Alex: Forty well there was a platoon there of soldiers in that town. And I got to know them, some of them, one of them fairly well. He had a little English and he wanted to practice his English with me.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And some of them came to our clinic, they didn't have a doctor they came to our clinic for small things and so they tolerated us. Its funny because uhm also I knew some of the guerillas and ah before we opened in the city I used to go back and forth and have a day a week maybe in the outpatient clinic in the city.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And one day when I was leaving to go into the city one of the soldiers, Japanese, came to me and told me, you be careful about those guerillas now said they are all through that country out there. (laugh) Well I wasn't as afraid of the guerillas as I was of them.(laugh)
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: But ah, and then another time we had a, I had to go and get a man who was wounded, had a bad neck wound and bring him into our little hospital to take care of him. And we had to come through the canals, that was canal country, we had very few roads but there were a whole network of canals with houseboats and boats on them.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So I had the man in the cabin of the boat. And I knew, it hadn't happened at our place but at other places they had gone into hospitals and pulled out the young men who were wounded and taken them out and shot them.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah, he was in the back so I got out on the front of the boat and as we passed under one of the bridges why one of the sentries that knew me waved at me and I waved at him and we talked until we got by and got the man safely stowed away and they never came after him, but I was afraid they would.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Would have gotten in trouble for taking care of him?Alex: What did you say?Jon: Would you have gotten in trouble for taking care of him?
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Probably at that stage they would have taken him out and given me a lecture probably . I don't think they would of, they might of made it rougher for me from then on I don't know.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: After Pearl Harbor did the Japanese get rougher with the Americans?Alex: Well, ah we came out on a furlough in August of '39 so we were in America at that time. And they, yes, they ah expelled them from China and put some of them in prison.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: One of my uncles was in prison for quite a while, or rather in house confinement he couldn't get out. And then one of my colleagues who was also a doctor was in a group of people who were sent down to the Philippines and put into a concentration camp. So they, we were just lucky we didn't get put into a concentration camp.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, did you spend the war years in the States?Alex: Yes, uh-hu.Jon: You worked as a doctor?Alex: Yes, in a a I was up in a little ah hospital up in the mountains in North Carolina in up in the sticks. (laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: How old were you then?Alex: Well lets see, from five to, uhm I went back in '48 so I went back to China the last second, the last time in when I was 43, so I was in my forties over here.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Did you ever think about joining the army or anything?Alex: Yes, yes I thought a great deal about it. And ah, the hospital we were in in Banterup, North Carolina was ah quite a remote area and at that time ah the doctors had to supply the number of that the army required.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So, we had one man in North Carolina who was in charge of requiting the doctors, and so ah uhm he never did call me and I never did volunteer but I did talk to him and asked him what he thought about my going in. Well, there were so few doctors in that area he said you better stay where you are.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: Well I stayed, I regretted it ever since that I didn't volunteer.Jon: Why is that?Alex: Well, my brother went and he came back uhm ­
  • Jon Andresen
    Jon: [tape change]
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Right so, you didn't you didn'tAlex: I was ah I wasn't as strongly as anti-war as I am now.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: This is before the terrible experience of Vietnam and of even Korea. And ah I felt like it was a just war, I still think it was. I don't know any other way we could of done and to fight the Hitler regime, I mean it was sweeping over Europe and threatening Britain.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Right.Alex: And ah I felt like, and so many of my friends went, that I've I've often regretted that I didn't volunteer. Then if they told me not to go and stay up in the mountains why I would have been more comfortable about it.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: What differences did you see in diseases and things like that between what people had in China and the States?Alex: Ah some of the diseases that we had begun to get under control in this country were still wide spread in China. For instance, small pox was almost unheard of in this country, and it was wide spread in China.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah there was a great deal of Typhoid fever, we still had disgracefully, well what had we had was a disgrace over here but it was nothing compared to how where it was in China. Last time we went I went out there in our hospital we had at one time about over twenty people with Typhoid Fever in one ward at one time.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: I've barely ever heard of Typhoid Fever.Alex: No, you wouldn't it's almost unheard of now. Small pox, Typhoid Fever, and then we had a great deal of malaria. A great deal of Malaria.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then we had diseases over there that we just don't have over here now, a good many parasitic diseases, Typhus fever we had, ah and cholera we had that in the summers in some areas would devastate a lot of areas a lot of people. But there were a lot of different parasitic diseases.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah infections, this was before we had penicillin or even the sulfa drugs. And we had, infections were a terrible problem over here. But I remember how delighted I was, the first patient that came in to our hospital with an injury or, I forget what the injury was, a cut of some sort that I was able to treat and get the wound to heal I mean the wound healed without an infection.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Right.Alex: Almost the rule that if a person got a wound uhm that it would become infected.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So did you get penicillin in China about when we got it here? Or did you have to wait awhile for it?Alex: The ah, when we went back we could we got some penicillin. Yes, but not much. No, wait a minute, no we didn't no we did not.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Ah because we didn't have any until '49 when I was over here when I remember I first started using it. We got one of the ah, one of the ah earliest forms of the sulfas, there were a few of them in China. But ah we only I only remember getting to use it a very few times. And then not enough not enough for a full course of it.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So you were in China during the Korean War?Alex: No.Jon: No.Alex: No, that was after, uhm that was I forget what year it was, that was fifty early fifties where. We came back in '49 the last time.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Oh. From your perspective that you've been in China and living then in the States what did you your opinions on the Korean War?Alex: The Korean War? Ah, it's hard for me to say because I think so much of it now in retrospect.(laugh)
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Looking back on it. But ah, I don't think we ever knew how terrible it was. We had some idea. Ah Ernie Pyle was a tremendous newspaper man, have you ever heard that name? Ernie Pyle, P-Y-L-E and a great a great writer and a great reporter.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And he was right in the thick of it here in ah Korea. And he gave some wonderful reporting, he died of course a long time ago. What did I think of the Korean War? I still thought it was it was justified.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: I know the Chinese were involved heavily in that.Alex: They came toward the end, yes.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Was there a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment in the States?Alex: Ah, I don't think so. Because there was already a great deal of anti yes anti­ communist, yes, were against communists Jon.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We talked about free China, ah the nationalists army and their government came over to Taiwan you know and a certain number of Chinese also came over to Taiwan. And we called that free China. (laugh) And we ah we scorned communist China and the government.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Uhm, it was terrible when they first came in, left after, I didn't see any of it. But they did wholesale murder, and then killing of landlords, that was the main thing, anybody that owned land. Was was they were just killed right and left. And then the the intelligentsia were put work in the fields and the factories.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then there was the the uhm cultural revolution, which was those horrible ten years when they, in fact all the universities and colleges closed, and the students went wild. They didn't, they closed the they didn't they had very few classes in the colleges.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And all the kids your age were out with their red banners going over, tearing things up in the countryside. Hunting down the intellectuals and just burning books. (laugh) It was a terrible time. But they got over that.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then there was the great leap forward when ah ah Chairman Mao told all of the intellectuals to come out and write, and ah into the field of writing and express their opinions. And they did that and a great many of them got promptly clapped into jail for it.(laugh)
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And things, of course you know about Tienamen Square, and ah things have opened up a good a good deal. And then the large number of Chinese students who have come over here I think have helped us to, to say that well we'll a little more tolerant of them running their own government, that after all it's theirs.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah we'd like to see more human rights in China. But ah, there has always been a good feeling between the Chinese people and the American people, always. Except for intervals.(laugh) The Chinese like Americans.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: I assume that you have a lot of friends still in China when you were back here?Alex: It was so completely closed that I almost lost touch entirely. I have had some touch with a doctor that I that he was a student in our mission high school.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: I didn't know him as a student, then I knew him when ah he was taking his internship, he went on to study medicine, I knew him than and saw him once or twice, I never saw him many times. But I've had a few letters from him through the years including one recently. And ah my son Sandy and Betty, I don't 'spose you've heard, but they've just they've just back from China.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Oh really?Alex: They had a wonderful two weeks , ah little over two weeks in China. And ah he was able to make contact with this friend of mine.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: He didn't see him but he had a telephone conversation with him. And ah so he made we touched base in that way, but I've just about lost contact with all of my Chinese friends. Cause I'm 87, so most of my own generation have died.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So you were in China and you missed, probably not that it's ad thing, but you missed seeing the Great Depression and what was going on here in the States.Alex: Well, I was in school at that time.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Oh, right .Alex: Ya, and I still got my $29.17 a month.(laugh) And ah ah, people didn't have so many things. I mean, ah you didn't want so many things then.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Not, in my dormitory there were only a few who had phonographs we called 'um then. And you had to crank them, you didn't have radio didn't have radios, course didn't have televisions, and you just you just had a wonderful time without all those gadgets.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Were a lot of people out of work?Alex: Uh, yes, when I was in in medical school there were a lot of people out of work. And ah, its its funny but in the in the academic world, where I was inside a hospital, I didn't know it. Well, the Chinese its, there was so much poverty in China.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Ya.Alex: I guess that's one reason that I grew up thinking that a lot people have got to be poor.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So it wasn't..Alex: I don't mean that I made light of it, but I don't think it hit me like. I'll tell you what really hit me. Uh uhm in 1935 when we went out to China why course Roosevelt had come in and turned things around a lot, but it still things were pretty bad.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And Virginia's father, my wife's father, lost his his job, and that really made an impression on me.(laugh) He just lost his job. There were many reasons, his health wasn't too good, but but ah I I put the depression was the main thing. One of the main things.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: The depression seemed made a big impact on my my grandparents.Alex: Uh-huhJon: And my grandmother she, for Christmas she gave us a book called We Had Everything But Money.Alex: Oh ya.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: And ah well, she cites the reason why she spoils us was the Depression, " Well, we didn't have anything so I can spoil you."Alex: (laughter)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Is that what it was like? Did you have everything but money?Alex: Uhm, isn't that funny. My mother used to tell me this when we were children. She said, "Well, children" she said." We're rich but we don't have much money but we're rich."
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We really felt like we were, I felt like I was privileged all my life. I really did. A friend of ours, a single lady who was another missionary in our mission station, had a little phonograph with about fifteen or twenty records maybe.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We we didn't have a phonograph, we I never thought about wanting one. I just thought about well, we just don't have one and that's it. And she let us keep hers most of time, and we learned those records by heart, we just loved 'um.(laugh) That's where I got, she had only a few classical records, but we we listened to those and sang with them. (laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Do you like the, classical music the most?Alex: Ya, I love classical music. My mother, mother was a musician and ah she taught music and one of my daughters taught music. And ah Sandy is quite musical.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Did you ever get into jazz or..?Alex: I never cared much about jazz. Ah when he was in high school I was pretty much, I always loved hymns, hymn singing, we'd grown up with a great deal of it and I loved hymns.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah ah I loved classical music, and Sandy in high school years, that was before rock and roll, I guess it was early rock music. And one day he had a record (laugh) on in the house and it was pretty loud and pretty raucous. And I says, Sandy, I says, how can you stand that? (laugh)
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And he never, he hardly ever came back at me, and he says, daddy the trouble with you is you're narrow minded. (laugh) He said, "I like classical music as much as you do", he said, "I like this this music too".
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Well, you know it really turned me around on my my, turned me completely around, and I realized that you got to listen to all kinds. And ah I still don't care for rock music,,but I least I willing to admit that it is music. And I don't want to, I don't want to turn it down unless it's too loud (laugh) Do you like music?
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Ya, I like music.Alex: What kind?Jon: All kinds really.Alex: All kinds.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: (indistinguishable)Alex: Do you play?Jon: I used to play the trumpet.Alex: Oh did you?
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Did you ever play an instrument?Alex: Just just the guitar. I never, and ah only just a few chords. I never got very far with it. After I retired I studied it some but I couldn't, it was to late to learn then. I couldn't somehow get on to it.(laugh) I I like the harmonica.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: When you came back form China in 1949 what did you do here in the States?Alex: Well ah, I ah we thought we'd get back anytime. So, first I just I got a temporary job the place, in Alabama. Working for a doctor who had a contract practice with a big mill there, did that for a year.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then ah I went all over a number of places looking for a place where they needed a surgeon. I wanted to be to a small hospital.(laugh) That's what I was used to.(laugh) And ah found this place in North Carolina and they they were gonna build a hospital, but it wasn't ready yet.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So, I got another temporary job through, no that was the temporary job I got for a year. And then went into in 1950 when they just, right after they opened this little hospital, and stayed there until I retired. And did surgery there.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Where was that in North Carolina?Alex: Taylorsville. Do you know where Hickory is?
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: No.Alex: It's right in the Piedmont area, right in the, we could drive in an afternoon and get right up in the Blue Ridge mountains (laugh), and back.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Where you happy there?Alex: Yes, ya it was great.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Did you raise your children there?Alex: Yes, uh-huh they all finished high school there, three of them.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: What do you remember the most about living there?Alex: Well, the the people. That's the longest we were ever, we were there twenty-nine years, the longest we were ever in one place.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And getting to ah, well, in the beginning I did some obstetrics too and deliver babies and see 'em grow up. In one case deliver (laugh) the second generation of the same person. I mean, deliver a mother who whose mother has, wait a minute.(laugh)
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: I was with her when she was born and then I was with her first child when it was born. I always say, you don't deliver women they deliver themselves. We just stand by and do what little we can do to help the miracle of childbirth.(laugh)
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then I loved doing the surgery, uhm and then working with the doctors for a long time I was the only surgeon there, and there just two other active doctors. And we had a very close relationship, we were not in partnership but we worked very closely. And then one or two others came in and we never had a large, more than five or six in our county.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: You say during W.W.II you weren't against war, and not so much in Korea. What happened to change your attitude?Alex: Ah, I guess it began when I began to wonder what the end results were. In Korea you may remember that we drove the the communists all the way up to North Korea.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And we though we licked 'um, and then they turned around and pushed right on back. And now where are we, got two Koreas. Hardly better off now than they would have been if they'd all been Korea, if if they had all been communists, if they were all a communist government.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Would the the a South Koreans who are such good businessmen, would they have been able to temper things? I don't know. Ah, and we, the Chinese of course got a tremendous boost in their self esteem when they came down into North Korea and turned the tide of battle and actually fought with us and showed that we couldn't push 'em around.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: I think that my be one reason that they have been as strongly anti-American as they have until Nixon sort of warmed things up a little bit.(laugh) And then the Vietnam war. I have a nephew who was in there, was a Marine, right in the toughest of it, he volunteered.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: But has had very little to say about it since then, but it's pretty clear that he feels like it was the wrong thing to do. And ah with all of our might we got, we got licked.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And I haven't been able to see the wall in, the Vietnam wall in Washington, but that impressed me so much, pictures of it. And then, after all is it right is it right to kill people under any circumstances?
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Ah how old were your children during the Vietnam war?Alex: Sandy is, Sandy is 56 now. What the last year of the, what was the year of the Vietnam war?
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Ah '65 through '72.Alex: '66
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Ah '72 would be the last year.Alex: '72, ya, well he was going on 36 cause six from (indiscernible), he was in his thirties, thirty, 37.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, none of your children were in danger of being of going to Vietnam?Alex: He might have been taken in and the other two were girls, and ah they weren't drafting girls.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Ya, was that ever a big worry for you that your children might have to go to war?Alex: Ah no, I guess they weren't ah. I don't remember thinking of it.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Ya.Alex: He did go into the army, but it was in the peace later on when he went in for a couple of years.(pause) What what, how do you feel about war?
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: I don't know, I would I would probably go if they drafted me but I don't know as if I'd volunteer.Alex: Uh-hum, that's that's good a good stance.(laugh) I mean, I respect that.
  • Jon Andresen
    Jon: During W.W.II though, you you said that you thought about volunteering. Why, why volunteer? Especially you were in your thirties, and you have a wife what made you want to volunteer? Was it just the attitude of the country or?
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Well, mainly feeling like I ought to do my part. I don't like the idea of other people over there being killed. A lot of them who had to go in. And of course since that, since the one of the terrible things about the terrible things about the Vietnam war was the uhm fact that so many blacks had to go. The white boys could get out of it very easily.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: I didn't know that.Alex: Oh yes, ah you could all sorts of, you could get out to prolong your college education. Or you could get out for this or well, even Clinton and I admire him and he's my man.(laugh) But ah he had a little a little pull not to be on the continual list of going into the lottery machine.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then he was got the scholarship, the Rhodes scholarship, and ah they were, well at that time we wanted the young men to we wanted enough young men of the officer class to be the people to run our wars. I guess we always will.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And the ones at the bottom who don't have maybe can't, don't have a job anyway, there is no reason for not drafting them so put 'em in first. I heard the other day that at one time,
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: I read it was just this last week, during the Vietnam war that ah there were three times as many black causalities as whites. This was an article by a black doctor who was, who was in Vietnam. Right in the worst of it.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: I wonder what that says what how the war was run, and who was sent to fight?Alex: Ya.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: What was it like to live here in the States during W.W.I.I.? You had rationing and all that stuff?Alex: Yes, it wasn't any big deal. We were up in the mountains and we couldn't we could only get a small amount of gasoline so you couldn't go anywhere much in your car.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: But the children were little and we didn't need to go anywhere much anyway .(laugh) And ah oh little things like you didn't have as much coffee as you wanted, but that that was a small deal.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: What was it like to live in the mountains there, was it really a a rural setting?Alex: Yes, it was ah ah I've always loved the mountains anyway. We had our church had a mission up there.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We had a hospital, a orphanage and a junior college and ah they were all under the auspices of the church. And ah it was more like like a mission hospital in China than anything else. I was used to that you know.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: As a matter a fact before we were ever went to China I we visited there one time and I remember saying that if we ever have to leave this is where I'd like to stay the rest of my life.(laugh)
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And ah there was a two doctors there, only two doctors one of them I respected very much, he was a surgeon, he taught me a lot. And ah ah I like the mountain people.(laugh)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: How was it like China?Alex: Ah there was so much disease in the summer time that all the missionaries, almost all of 'em, tried to get up in the mountains somewhere.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We lived in the plains where it was very hot. And so we alays went to the mountains ah all through my childhood, during the summers at least the family would go.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: My father would take us up there and he'd go back, back to work and then he'd come back and spend a month at the end of the summer. And ah so we ah, so I always loved the mountains. Was that, what was the question?
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: How was living in the mountains ...?Alex: Oh in North Carolina?Jon: Ya.Alex: Oh yes, it was fine.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We we ah got in on some of the college activities and got to know a good many of the students. Just like I like it here because we share some of your Grinnell experience, and get to know quite a number of the students at one time or another and the faculty. So it was it was delightful.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So, uhm basically all your life you have been heavily involved in mission work?Alex: Well, during most of the years in North Carolina of course I was in in my own private practice and not directly related there.
  • Jon Andresen
    Jon: [pause] What else can you tell me about living in China, how it was different from living in the States?
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: (long pause) Well, for one thing we had servants.(laugh)Jon: You had servants?
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Servants we had a cook and what we called a house boy, a man, and a Ahma who was a woman, we had three servants all the time. And ah uhm one thing we had to have somebody to do the grocery shopping for us.
  • Jon Andresen
    Jon: [pause for tape switch]
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Sunday May 2nd, tape 2, interview with Alex Moffett.Alex: People don't have servants over here. But of course servants, the supermarkets over here, the checkout counter, they're our servants really but we don't look on them as servants.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And the people were so poor there, although we, the missionaries were paid very little, they looked upon us as being very wealthy. Cause we could easily afford- that was just a small cover of our expenses was paying those 3 servants. But, so the people, it freed people to do more of the work they wanted to do: teaching, whatever...
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: They were doing. Because they had less housework that they had to do.Jon: Did you- what style of house did you have?Alex: We had a house that had been built actually a few years before my father, before we moved into it, it had been built before that.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: The material was different from what we have over here, but the house was patterned after our houses,Jon: Was it out of place in China?Alex: Oh they looked on it, they thought they were magnificent.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: I always thought they were very comfortable, with plenty of rooms. A tile room. The walls, actually, they used the Chinese way of building them. The wall, you put up a couple of boards and you take dirt, broken tile, broken brick and stone and stamp it in. And then build it up a little higher so you build it up little by little.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So it was essentially a mud wall. By the time it had matured it was very durable. And we had fine, pine wood floors and doors. Chinese craftsmen could make, imitate almost anything you wanted. They could make a table and chairs for you. Just take a Sears-Roebuck catalogue and show it to them and they could make a table for you.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Because they still had the old craft system. And every carpenter had been trained as an apprentice from the time he was born. His family would- just like in Europe- his family would turn him over to a master carpenter. He would live in his home. Get paid nothing, just get enough food to live on and his clothing.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then after he'd work with him long enough, thought that he knew the trade, then he'd branch out for himself and it was that way through almost all the trades. I mean, they really learned them from the bottom up.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: They could make all sorts of things for you. And for instance, a door, you could build a house, maybe in some remote city, and the carpenter may not have seen one of these doors but if he could see a picture of them, he could mark it out, especially one who was contracting for it would have a little idea of what it ought to be.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Were most of your playmates when you were young Chinese or American?Alex: My family, we only had 8 in my family. Not all together, we were never all living at the same time, but we mostly played with ourselves. And I told you about our doctor? He had a daughter who was my age and we played a lot.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then there was another missionary was a school teacher and he had a couple of children came along later on and then we played with the Chinese children of course. And for a while my brother and I went to Chinese school but only for- just for an hour or so a day so we could get a little bit of reading in.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: But what did you do in China to play?Alex: Well, just what kids do I guess. I sometimes wonder, people talk about the young people getting into trouble cause they don't have enough to do, don't have, you've got to put a young people center here in town for the high school kids. We never thought about when we were kids.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: I was 12 when I left home, I was a really resistant kid. And after we got in high school, of course we had all the things, had our sports and all those sorts of things.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So the high school you went to was a boarding school?Alex: Yeah. First year I went off to a big- to Dianjing, where my brother and I lived with my uncle where they had a small American school. And then the last, from the 7th or 8th grade on I was in the boarding school.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Was it just for Americans?Alex: No, it was called the Shanghai American school and we did not admit Chinese. I don't know whether that was a policy, I hope it wasn't [laughs]
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: But it may have been, I don't know. Except we had one Chinese boy who was actually born in American, he talked English just like we did, but we had mostly American, but any other European. We had a few Russian Revolutions in 1918, that was the first year I went to school in Shanghai...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We had a few Russian boys came in, who were white Russians who were kicked out by the Bolsheviks (laghs). And I had one English friend, almost all Americans.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Were Americans on most missions in China?Alex: Most of them yes, uh-huh. Most of them were American. But in Shanghai, a lot of the day students were business, children of the business people in Shanghai. They were [indistinguishable]
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: You talked about a Sears-Roebuck catalogue in China? Was it delivered by train? Did you get anything from America when you were-?Alex: Well, at that we traded with Montgomery-Ward and maybe about once a year my father would get a big order of stuff from Montgomery-Ward.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: They'd come out, trade in boxes and that was a great occasion when they would come [laughs]. And then we could all- we were only 100 or something miles from Shanghai so by sending a boat to the railpoint, which is 30 miles away we could get groceries shipped up from Shanghai...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Hmm. I forget how often we used to get groceries. And then we ate a lot of Chinese vegetables and Chinese things and poulty and eggs and things like that and milk for the kids there. We ate a lot of rice. I love rice (laughs)
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: What was the landscape like in China? Where you were living?Alex: Where we lived was flat fields very close together. Little- tiny little fields, they'd have 2 or 3 crops a year, sometimes 3, they rotated the crops between rice, wheat and a couple of rye, I forgot exactly how they did it... and soybeans in between...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Not in the big fields like we have here but in intensely cultivated fields and then there were, around us there were little mountains, little hills. The highest one was about 5 or 600 feet. And to me, it was the most beautiful country [laughs]
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: In the world. And the Chinese temples were so picturesque I thought.Jon: How did the Chinese farm?Alex: This was all, without any mechanical assistance at all...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: They used mostly water buffalo to plow and, with a whole plow like even more primitive than the ones we had before we got the tractors and all. And then they would, for the rice, for instance...
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: Has to have a lot- Have you ever been in rice country?Jon: No.Alex: Uh-huh.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Rice has to grow in water, you know, so they would- a little place, just about the size of this room, with this rod cast and they would come up thick just like grass and then when it was about this high [gesturing] they'd pick it in little bunches, like this and then take it out of the fields, which were flooded at that time...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: If there wasn't enough rain, I told you there were canals all around there, they would pump it up into the fields, often with foot pumps, with a foot tredle they'd pump it up; or sometimes a water buffalo would pull a wheel with a mechanism to pull the water up and they'd flood the fields and then they'd put each little stalk down in a hole...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Waiting, right in that mud. And they'd- as the rice began to materialise they would drain the fields and they would cut it all by hand with little sickles. They didn't even have a long sickle, with a long handle like we have, they'd stoop over and cut it like that.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then they would take it up to the- each little village would have a threshing floor, like you've read about in the bible, the threshing floors that they had were mud, but they were packed down hard, I guess for generations had used them. And they'd put the wheat out on that and then they'd thresh it by hand.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: A stick with a paddle on the end. And then they'd rake it, the straw, up off of that and then, you know the expression "winowing wheat"? In the Bible they talk about winowing, it when you toss the wheat up in the air and the wind would blow the chaf away and when it came back you catch it in big baskets.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And there's your wheat. Now they did have a machine that had been, when it invented, that worked with a foot tredle that would do that. You could put the wheat in and it could beat it out so they did a lot of it that way too.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And then they grew a lot of vegetables out in the- and all of the human urine and pheses was collected in huge tanks and allowed to ferment and liquify and that was carried in buckets and spread out over the fields. Especially the vegetables fields.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And that was a source of diseases. That was a good source of many of our intestinal parasites because all of it was fermented, it wouldn't kill the the parasites, so, especially hook worm, do you remember hearing about hookworm? We used to have that in the south so much.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: That, the little eggs were tossed out on the fields and that was transmitted through your skin. The kids would go barefoot, all the workers go barefoot and the little parasite by that time had become- I forget what the name of the form is- but it would reach up through the skin and get into the bowl circulation and then gets intestinal tripes and soldier bud and people had anemia from it.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Did you dress like the Chinese?Alex: What?Jon: Did you dress like the Chinese?Alex: No.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Dressed the little children sometimes, just to make them look cute. Usually even then those that had that much education, the men, would try to take western style clothing, if they had education, but not all together, they still had their styles.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Your father was a Presbytarian missionary, what were the main religions in China?Alex: Well, Budhism. More Budhists than anything else. Budhism was the main great religion, one of the great religions of the world. Taoism was based more or less on a philosophy.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: But it had absorbed a lot of the [indistinguishable] or primitive religions that you find all over the world: superstitions, all sorts of belief in spirits that are all in the atmosphere and the world, every disease is caused by a spirit. And some of that from bible times if you remember.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: People possesed by demons and that governed a lot of what the people did. If you have a funeral, you had to go through a lot of the ceremonies that are perscribed in this thing to ward off the spirits, to protect and help the spirits of the loved one that is gone, to protect those that are left behind.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: When you build a house, you had to employ a necromancer or- I think that's the right word- or a person who is skilled in the ways of the evil spirits. And he would come and see if your house was situated in the right place or not, whether it was facing exactly the right direction.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: When you built your house, if there was a courtyard in front, you put a wall up- here would be the front entrance, here would be a wall and the courtyard and the home behind, cause the spirits can't go around the corner, they'd be blocked off from that. There was- a lot of it had just become custom, like our Halloween customs, you know.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: But still there was a great deal of belief in that. That was Taosism. Then, perhaps you've heard of Confucianism? That is not quite a religion.Jon: Uh-huh.Alex: It was the great philosophy of the family.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: The family unit is the perfect unit in the universe. And so you expand to heaven, god is in the big unit. And then you've got smaller and smaller and smaller units coming on down the line. And everybody is subservient to the one above.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: A little bit like the feudal system, you know, you had a Lord and then finally you have the kig. But that taught respect for the elders, tremendous respect for the elders. An old person was respected, they were never laughed at, some of them were, but they were generally respected.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Highly respected. And an old person's word was listened to. Not only followed but listened too. And so then that's confusionism. And then, Roman Catholics came in, about the 5th century, but didn't stay very long. They got pushed out- there were some Roman Catholics that came into Peking...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Quite early. And then, early in the 19th Century, the Protestant and Catholic missionaries kept coming in in large, well, increasing numbers and so until they were all thrown out. And one reason they us out was that they realised they were being dominated by the foreign powers of the world.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We had the, what they called Treaty Ports, that first in the opium war, British opium war of 1854, they forced the Chinese to allow merchants to come in and stake out territory. Now this is our territory.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: In Shanghai they had the big international settlement, I don't know how it was in the beginning when I first came along called international settlement, only people land there, could own property there and some Chinese could. But the Chinese couldn't just come in and buy at will, they had restrictions. And in the French concession, no Chinese was allowed to built nor to buy, to own property.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And there were all these different things. I like to think that America- America took advantage of them less than any other. I really think they did and they gave us credit for that, but we sort of, we profited by the so-called rights that other people gained.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: If you get what I mean.Jon: You used [mumbled]?Alex: For example we came and went freely in these treaty ports.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: We had our headquarters there in Shanghai and when there was a war, a local war, warlords kept China destroyed for most of this century. Local warlords, they ruled one particular area, and missionaries have to get up and run away.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: And so we'd go to Shanghai.Jon: Frequently?Alex: No, not frequently. When I was 5 years old we had to leave and go to a bigger city, where there was less commotion until time clouded down and my parents went back.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: While I was in college, there was the first of the communist uprisings in China and that killed a few Americans. And so my family and a lot of missionaries then went to Shanghai rather than be anywhere in the world. And when things quieted down they went back out in the country.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: But always, well for instance we didn't pay income taxes in China. We just told them that we weren't liable [laughs]Jon: Was it hard to get people to convert to Christianity?Alex: Yes.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: It was very slowly, very very slowly. But an interesting thing is that out of those that came out of the missionary schools and colleges, all of the first big univeristies and colleges were developed by Christian missions in China.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: In the beginning, all up the time that I was- approached many of them. And many of the graduates of these little mission schools bought into prominent positions in the government. This doctor I was telling you about, there was a [mumbled] school. I didn't teach in it cause I'd left for highschool by the time he came there, anyway, he wound up in- until he retired recently, he was the head of the epidimiology department of the province of the state there.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And was pretty high up in the national government in public health work. And that we hear about all over China. So a part of the, naturally from my standpoint, I want there to be Christians but I don't want anybody to force it down anybody's throat. You can't force it down. I wouldn't want to if I could.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Well I'd like them to know what's important to me and why it's important to me and if you wanted- and if that convinces you, good, then I will share it. Just like you would I think with your music maybe.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: If I was ranting and ranting against rock & roll you wouldn't try and convert me but if I was open to it you would try and tell me why it means something to you.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Right.Alex: But I think, one of the things, to me it's all right if the church started a college like Grinnell and then turned it over. They have no business running it all in all anyway. It's a wonderful thing to start I think.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: Does that answer your question?Jon: Yep.Alex: Oh and the next thing they I did want to say, after the communist revolution, all religion was made- it was illegal to worship in any religion: budhist, christian, anything. And that very slowly opened up- while that was going on...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: There were little house searches all over China for Christian small groups. If they were found out, they lost their lives, they were put in prision, their homes were torn up but that has absolutely mushroomed and there are many times more Chirstians in China than there were when missionaries were there.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Wow.Alex: There is an official church, which has began a little bit, like, recognised by the government. It's a little bit like the Church of England was, back before the dissenters came in. You remember the dissenters?
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Came in and pretty much were at longerheads, the dissenters and the baptists and they're having those troubles in China now, there's conflict between those groups but that's just a human thing.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And these house churches, in spite of, I suppose it would be open under government edict but locally, the local officials were frequently given a lot of trouble, and break up a meeting, beaten up, occasionally lose a life. And confiscate religious litterature and things like that...
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: But, there is still a relatively small number of Christians in China but it's so gratifying to me to see that they have taken it themselves and are working it out for themselves.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So this was a big part of your life...Alex: Yeah.Jon: Are you looking to return?Alex: Yeah. I'm going this [mumbled], this year. Have you ever been here, been to our church here?Jon: No.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Well, they always have some students. I would love you to come sometime [laughs] look in on us, see what you think, Mike Smith is really wide awake, he's very progressive I think, our minister. His wife teaches in the college.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: What to you, what is the best- what do you like most about being a physician? What was the most gratifying?Alex: [pause] Working with people.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: Especially if you like the- if you're doing something that they need.Jon: Did you ever teach? Have you ever had any interns?
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: A little, when I was in China, the last time, I taught, I was just there a year, but I taught a couple courses for the provincial medical school. Which I enjoyed.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Do they have many medical schools over there?Alex: Not like we have. Well, no, not as many as we have, but they have them scattered over.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Do they practice the same type of medicine? You say they have different religions, did they have people specialise in like healing and stuff?Alex: Yes. They had, the Chinese medicine is probably 2 or 3 thousand years old.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: It's a continuous, scholarly, discipline based largely on herbs. The majority of treatment is based on herbs. You've probably read some about it. There's a whole system of health that based on maintaining balance in the human body.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: And there are certain elements that remind us of the old medieval humours, you remember the blood and fire and all of that?Jon: Uh-huh.Alex: They believe the strongest of the all is the spirit or the Chi, or the words they use for breaths.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: It's interesting to me, because, I love portrait too, and in the bible they talk about how man was created, when god breathes on life, all kinds, it was breath, you know. They have, it's common sense that the breath is life and certain foods will promote a good circulation of this chi.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And certain foods will go against, or this or that. So what you're trying to do is bring everything into balance. And accupuncture is based on that. The anatomical charts that they have don't correspond at all to ours. I mean that have pathways of- something, maybe stomach troubles, may be connected to your ear, and they put the needle in you ear!
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Well, I always thought it was ridiculous. I just thought that it was quacker and I didn't pay any attention to it when I was out there. I wish I had, but there's more and more realisation that the scientific side is only one side. It's only half of one side. Because the spiritual side, there's things that science searches but can't touch.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: For instance, why is it that babies in a nursery, that are coddled 2 or 3 times a day will thrive better than babies that are put in a bassinette where oxygen is regulated, everything is regulated. Everything that they eat, what they prove, what they taught at school, in medical school we were taught to leave the little babies alone.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Don't go messing with them. Don't pick 'em up and breathe in their face, you might give them a germ. And finally they found out that babies don't thrive unless they're cuddle a little bit. And I look on those Chinese charts, there's something like that somewhere connecting with the- whatever you want to call it- the spirit of life and health that we do a lot for in our scientific medicine, but-
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: That's not the whole thing. They had great faith, their favourite herd, that has never been able to find.
  • Jon Andresen
    Jon: [tape change]
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: This is, have you ever heard of ginseng?Jon: Yes. I've heard of it.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: This is the ginseng root. This, the Chinese have studied it, they have a traditional medical school in Beijing that studies the old Chinese herbs and medicines and system-
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And when we were there, all my life I remember the people talk about this. The Chinese used to talk about it. You paid great, a lot of money for it. It was expensive and it is for all sorts of things.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: It is supposed to help to balance your body and before I left my practice, a Korean doctor Kim came to visit. He was highly trained, he'd had a lot more training that I and we worked together for several years before I left.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And he calls me about once a month, just to talk and he found out that Gin was not doing too well and wanted to know what medicine she was taking. So, he sends us some of this, and he is scientifically trained.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: And he doesn't put a lot of stalk in this, but he said that some of his friends had sent him some from Korea I suppose, the Koreans use it also, and you make a tea out of it. You boil it, put it in water and boil it down to about 50% of the original volume and just drink it as a tea.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: And that is highly prized among the Chinese.Jon: Used for anything?Alex: Well, yes. So we would think of it as tonic. We don't talk about tonics in the same amount that we used to.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: Do it always come in this kind of shape?Alex: No, that, the strange thing is that there is so much demand in China that they import it from America, in the mountains of North Carolina some of the people there collect Ginseng roots.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: And they don't it doesn't grow as big as- Would you like one of this?Jon: [mumbled] thanks.Alex: It doesn't grow as big as this, but in North Georgia, nothing much as big as- but it's still so much in demand in China that they import it from America.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: Now this is grown in Korea, where they make a big thing of it. And to go back to the old- what you want to call superstition I guess, when it's boiled, sometimes it will look like this. These, this little root. You see here this is doubled?Jon: Uh-huh.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: That might be a good specimen, it might, it's supposed to look like this character which is the character for land, but it's the ginseng, it's just an old saying but it's supposed to look like a wang therefore it has a human value to it.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: So how did you come to Grinnell?Alex: Oh because Sandy is here.Jon: Uh-huh. When did you arrive?Alex: We've been here 3 years.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: What do you think of Grinnell?Alex: Oh it's great [laughs]. We're quite enthusiastic about- he's been here 20 years now.Jon: Wow.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: So, we've, through the years we've come up a number of times just to visit him and his wife and so after retiring we moved around a couple places and finally decided we'd come here just to be near him.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: What do you like the most about Grinnell?Alex: Aside from being with them? [laughs]Jon: Right.Alex: Well, I like this retirement home very much.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: They have a lot of professional people here and I don't have to be with professional people to be happy but I like it when I can. They've travelled all over the world and a lot of them are retired professors from Grinnell.
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: Retired teachers from all these different places, you enjoy the atmosphere here and then the, all of the concerts and lectures in the campus are open to us without charge, and we don't go to many because we are not able to get out of the home a lot [laughs].
  • Alex Moffett
    Alex: But we go to, especially the concerts, I love to go to all the ones that I can. And some of those, what do you call the Thursday morning lectures? The convocations? I go to some then. You know, I like the people here.
  • Jon Andresen & Alex Moffett
    Jon: [indiscernable question]Alex: Well, yeah, I guess so, we don't want to- we've lived in all kinds of hot and cold.Jon: Well I've asked everything I wanted to ask, is there anything you wanted to add?
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: I think I've talked too much.Jon: Oh no.Alex: You may learn a lesson from this not to give an old person a chance to talk [laughs]Jon: No that's not a problem.
  • Alex Moffett & Jon Andresen
    Alex: I'd like know your plans.Jon: My plans? I don't really- [tape stops]
Alex Moffett was born in 1905 in Suzhou, China, to missionary parents. He lived in China until 1923 when he attended Washington & Lee in Viginia for college and then went on to Vanderbilt for medical school. He and his wife, Virginia, returned to China in 1935 where they did medical missionary work until 1940, including during the Sino-Japanese war. After returning to the U.S., he had a private practice in Taylorsville, North Carolina, for twenty-nine years.